Skeptoid host Brian Dunning has written on SkepticBlog about a recent surreal experience he had with Michael Shermer, when both were invited to be the skeptics on a new show supposedly about testing psychics for a $50,000 prize.
The third psychic was, unfortunately, not a psychic at all, but a young comedian who used to have a show on the BBC, and now appears to be trying to make a name for himself with a new character who is a wannabe nemesis of skeptics. He’s going to find this an uphill battle, as he’s neither clever, funny, particularly talented in any apparent way, nor does he seem to know much about psychics or criticism of psychics.
He goes by the moniker “Shirley”, and looks like a televangelist in a gaudy white suit with colored piping, and either the world’s worst hair or a gauche orange wig, I couldn’t quite tell which. When it was his turn to come out, Shirley came up to me, took his seat, refused to return my friendly greeting, and launched into what he seemed to think was a clever attempt to “get into my head” – insulting my parents, my wife, and “revealing” to all my terrible guilt at how I’ve treated people. Essentially, his routine was to ignore the reason [that I believed] he was supposed to be there, and try to establish himself as – well, I can’t even think what. He refused to participate in the arranged tests, instead throwing tantrums about each, constantly demanding that he be paid his $50,000.
Michael Shermer tweeted some of the later developments during the day, including this medium dragging a bodybag onto the set, claiming it to contain the body of Lee Majors.
Seems that Shermer and Dunning were lured into being (unaware) participants in the taping of a new Shirley Ghostman feature. Ghostman is the creation of Marc Wootton, a British comedian/actor doing Sacha Baron Cohen Borat-like joke interviews and interactions, with the Ghostman character being a send-up of star mediums. Wootton did something similar with British skeptics a while back – here’s a segment featuring UK skeptic Chris French:
Personally I don’t get much enjoyment out of the Ghostman prank interviews (and I think Chris French came out of the above interaction looking very good). I’m not a huge fan of Dunning or Shermer, but I feel for them a bit in this instance, spending a day doing some genuine work to find out it’s all a sham – though going by both their accounts, I’m not too sure of their ability to spot a joke. At least they got paid for their day (who says skepticism doesn’t pay?).
And you can be sure skeptics wouldn’t engage in this sort of low-level pranking. Oops…very next post on SkepticBlog is from Mark Edward, urging skeptics to engage in “Ambush Skepticism“:
Are your gloves off yet? Now how about moving on from Guerrilla Skepticism to more targeted Ambush Skepticism? We certainly have plenty of whack-jobs out there to choose from. These days, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Here’s some ideas and please don’t take them too seriously, I’m merely suggesting possibilities. If you do any of these performance pieces, please get them on camera.
No shortage of irony over there at the moment…